Celeste Fronsman's life came to a brutal end. She was found along the side of a road in Muskingum County, Ohio, begging for help and badly beaten, with burns over 70 percent of her body from being set on fire. She died two days later. Canton drug dealer LaFonse Dixon was charged with her murder, allegedly committed in retaliation for Fronsman tipping off police about his drug business. In October 2013, a year after Fronsman's death, a jury found Dixon guilty of aggravated murder.
Aggravated murder: facing the death penalty
In Ohio, the crime with the most serious consequences is aggravated murder. You commit aggravated murder under the following circumstances:
Killing another person after planning the murder beforehand
Killing someone while committing a violent crime
Killing someone under 13 years old
Killing someone while in prison or while escaping from prison
Killing a law enforcement officer who was performing official duties
Killing a law enforcement officer specifically because the victim was a law enforcement officer
The penalty for aggravated murder is life imprisonment or death. A death penalty is imposed in a special sentencing proceeding where evidence is heard by the same jury that heard the case itself.
The serious business of defending against murder charges
Because of the serious consequences of all murder charges, defense attorneys must pursue every avenue to defend their clients. The lawyers, assisted by their own investigators and experts, review all the state's evidence, such as police reports, witness statements, lab reports and physical evidence, including DNA and firearms. They investigate whether the arrest was legal, whether the witnesses have motives to lie and whether the evidence was securely preserved. The investigators go to the scene of the murder and try to find witnesses whose stories differ from that of the prosecution witnesses.